The Importance Of Home And Family In Jane Austen's Mansfield Park

1686 words - 7 pages

The Importance of Home and Family in Jane Austen's Mansfield Park

 
   "They were a remarkably fine family...and all of them well-grown and forward of

their age, which produced as striking a difference between the cousins in

person, as education had given to their address." (Austen, 49)  Within the first

few pages of Mansfield Park, Jane Austen implants in the minds of her readers

the idea that contrasting and conflicting environments are the forces that will

decide the heroine's fate.  Austen's own home and family influenced her life,

writing, and the creation of the homes in her novels, and in turn, shaped her

heroines.

 

But Fanny Price is unique among Jane Austen's heroines, having much more with

which to contend than simply the influence of one family.  In fact, it is the

differences between her two homes and families that cause Fanny and the novel to

turn out the way they do.  Yet the heroine finds herself in this situation only

because of the influence of the Austen family on the characters in Mansfield

Park.  Not only can parallels easily be drawn between lively, theatrical,

handsome Henry Crawford and Henry Austen, reputedly Jane's favorite brother1,

but the imprint of Jane's siblings also shows in Fanny herself.  Sent to live as

a young child with wealthy cousins, Fanny's situation much resembles that of

Jane's elder brother Edward.  As her nephew wrote in A Memoir of Jane Austen,

Edward Austen "had been a good deal separated from the rest of the family, as he

was early adopted by his cousin, Mr. Knight, of Godmersham Park." (Austen-Leigh,

280)  Just like Edward, Fanny "finally came into possession both of the property

and the name." (Austen-Leigh, 280)  But this conclusion is not inevitable, and

is only accomplished after a great inner struggle-before Fanny becomes mistress

of Mansfield Park, she must resolve the conflict between her two homes and

families.

 

Upon first arrival at Mansfield, the shy little girl, "longing for the home she

had left," (Austen, 50) is indeed pitiable.  But she is soon befriended by her

cousin Edmund, who from the start strikes Fanny as a gentleman "with all the

gentleness of an excellent nature." (Austen, 51)  With his guidance and

friendship, Fanny flourishes in the genteel country society, and "learning to

transfer in its favour much of her attachment to her former home, grew up there

not unhappily among her cousins." (Austen, 56)  As her uncle later suspects,

Fanny grows so accustomed to the refined company of her cousins that she fails

to fully appreciate Mansfield Park.  Fondly remembering the home she had left

behind at the tender age of ten, Fanny is overjoyed to return to Portsmouth for

a visit, even with the knowledge of Sir Thomas' true intentions-to convince her

to...

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